Brits Find Bad Children Have Bad Brains

Now they’ve done it! Remember when bad conduct wasn’t a mental disorder? It used to be a grade on a report card. Once upon time, long ago, in the days before attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, people chose whether or not to conduct themselves in matters befitting their species. Well, no more.

An article on the subject, Teenage anti-social behavior caused by “brain abnormality”, replete with brain scans, has been published in the UK Daily Mail.

Scientists have discovered that teens with a psychiatric condition known as ‘conduct disorder’ have an abnormal pattern of brain activity compared with those without the condition.

Conduct disorder leads to a high level of aggressive and antisocial behaviour and affects five teenagers in every 100 in the UK.

Bad behavior was previously attributed to peers copying peers behaving badly. The new formula is bad behavior equals bad brains.

This study involved giving brain scans to children looking at pictures of angry, sad, and neutral faces. The children labeled with Conduct Disorder showed very little emotional activity when viewing these images. Theory runs that they therefore must be lacking in The Empathy Department.

Dr Andy Calder from the MRC Unit, who led the research, said: “We know it costs the government ten times as much to support a child with conduct disorder into adulthood, compared to a normal child.

The fact that we are dealing with immature brains and bodies doesn’t come up so much. They are little adults whose brains researchers have been scanning for broken places.

The article doesn’t say whether adolescents with this disorder grow out of it, nor does it say whether the disorder follows them into prison.

8 Responses

  1. It was heartening at least to see that none of the 24 that commented fell for it.

    • But the readership of The Daily Fail is not exactly the most literate and sophisticated bunch.

      I’ve been seeing a lot of articles in the mainstream press about fMRIs and psychopaths/anti-social behavior. It’s been known for years that neuro-electro-chemical brain activity of psychopaths differed from the rest of the population. On the old EEG, irregularities in the theta waves were seen, among other physical signs. Though not perfect, the fMRI scans are showing more and more.

      To me, it is just mind-boggling that psychiatry hasn’t used psychopathy as the model for the Medical Model of Mental Illness since it presents so many physical, empirical signs and processes. Instead, they’ve pursued this needle in the haystack approach and been tilting at windmills looking for physical, neuroanatomical basis of schizophrenia.

      But oh, wait. The DSM refuses to recognize that psychopathy exists and makes a diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder, which isn’t quite the same thing– and the lead researcher in psychopathology has sharply criticized them for weaseling out of this. True psychopaths do extremely poorly with both drugs and psychotherapy. In fact, psychotherapy generally helps them game the system even better.

      The poor shrinks would look like idiots for being unable to treat their Model disease. And we can’t have that, can we? So they ignore it and pursue the behavior of a far more vulnerable, far less predatory population.

      As I said, I’m seeing more and more of these articles on psychopathy/anti-social behavior in the mainstream press and science blogs. The suggestions I’m seeing is that psychopaths can’t help themselves because of brain irregularities. It’s almost as if shrinks want to relieve them of their responsibilities– and psychopaths have traditionally always been held responsible for their behavior in a court of law– and by extension take away their ability to give informed consent to experimental treatment. And any treatment for them would necessarily be experimental, probably like brain surgery experimental. This may be a few years off, but psychiatry is becoming creepier and creepier and wanting more and more power to intrude into everyone’s daily life. I wouldn’t put anything past them.

      • Tony, the monster making factory must continue to grind out its product. I don’t think pathologizing behavior is the way to go with this argument, whether that behavior is characterized as disturbed or criminal. The article says something about these anti-social children labeled with conduct disorder having mental and physical health problems in their future. I imagine some of these doctors are just fishing for a reason to drug kids. Once you’re drugging the kids, well, then, sure, their mental and physical health declines correspondingly. Psychiatry is, as you say, becoming creepier and creepier, and it is becoming more and more intrusive. Maybe people see it over in your neck of the woods. Here in the states its scary. as far as I’m concerned, how very many people buy these arguments scripted entirely by biologically based psychiatrists. The same theories have been repeated over and over again so many times that some people can’t seem to see through the smoke screen. We’ve got a theory here that doesn’t seem to realize just that, it’s only a theory. I think it is encouraging to note that evolutionists at first lost the battle in the court of law that they eventually won in the court of public opinion. Psychiatry, as some people have pointed out, bares more in common with religion than it does with any hard science, and so I think it perfectly correct to see parellels between psychiatry and creationism. We don’t have the free interchange of ideas here, we have instead one school of thought that would discredit any disbelief in its pronouncements. Skepticism is the proper sphere of science; belief, of religion.

      • Yeah Tony, it’s a particular demographic and regardless of what type it is it’s not surprising that an article such as this one would generate negative comments. And of course you don’t ally yourself with a person on the strength of an off the cuff or possibly ill informed comment.

        They’ve fallen in love with MRI’s and they are trying to share their rapture with the general public. But it’s a real stretch to conclude anything by observing brain activity in response to pictures of kittens.

        If you want to establish whether or not a person is a psychopath by some definition you find out what they did and what they said. You then ask them why. You evaluate their responses which enables you to ask more questions both of the subject and witnesses. And the evaluator does not lie. And if you can’t justify further action without lying you leave them alone. How do you justify further action by cherry picking from amongst other highly dubious indirect methods.

        Why is this so hard to understand?

        The reason that the psychs have so far not been able to get their hooks into “psychopaths” is that they haven’t yet seriously attempted to suggest that it is a medical condition. With the manics, schizophrenics and depressives they have been able to convince the public that there must be an organic condition. Largely because of the fact that many substances when ingested can invoke behaviors and experiences that resemble symptoms of so called mental illness.

        But this of course is what they are now trying to do, to medicalize “psychopathy”.

        You can be a deemed a psychopath without any thought disorder or use of substances. This would often apply to the most notorious “psychopaths”. Hitler for example. Some would say that some labelled psychopaths are in fact just enemies of an unjust state. Some would say that about Hitler.

        Having said all that Hitler probably loved kittens and smiling faces.

        OK, Hitlers brain lights up in all the right places when he sees a happy smiling face. You then tell him that the face belongs to a Russian Jew and his brain lights up in all the wrong places. That doesn’t tell you anything about mental illness or psychopathy. It tells you about hatred.

    • I agree with you about the comments, Rod. The study itself seemed somehow ridiculously wrong headed, but people seemed to see through it, and the comments they had to make were encouraging if not enlightening.

      I just kind of think you don’t do this to children you care about, and so it’s sort of a matter of separating the “good” children from the “bad” children, and that worries me. Mom, Dad, the school system, and some University research team miss their own role in these children’s “badness”. It’s like there’s a blind spot in their would be objectivity that is not so objective, and they miss it entirely.

      We talk about the importance of loving children, but then people throw away their kids, and they build institutions to house and confine those throw away kids. After awhile, we’ve transgressed way beyond tough love. It’s tough, alright, but there’s absolutely no love about it. Parents and associates have found a way of hating their own kids while claiming the opposite.

      • Yeah. For one thing I suspect that some of these type of articles are deliberately written badly as a method of gauging reaction. There are a heap of reasons why PR and propagandists appear to be deliberately inept when they are in the process of delivering a belief system. It’s part of the method. It has the paradoxical effect of eliciting sympathy for a “fledgling” belief.

        Check out this guy.
        I recommend starting at the beginning and working back up to the present.

    • I’m sorry if my comments to this post were a little off topic. I really dislike the “but-just-think-of-the-children!” arguments when they’re used by any one in any situation. I mean no disrespect, but I want to leave aside all the arguments about drugs and children– we can all agree here that medicating typical childhood conditions is wrong– and talk about this as it relates to people in general.

      Yes, neuroscience (not to be confused with psychiatry) is finding out more and more about the brain structures and neuro-chemical processes of people who exhibit what is called anti-social/psychopathic behavior. See here for one MSM report. There is growing empirical evidence for a condition once largely swept under the rug and ignored by psychiatry.

      What shrinks are trying to do here is indeed medicalize behavior that’s commonly called evil. However, they have a very thorny legal issue: psychopaths have always been held responsible for their criminal behavior in a court of law. Doing this suggests psychopaths have the free will to choose to do good or to do bad. Shrinks, who can’t stand the thought that any one could have free will or any sort of agency over their environment and mental processes, are trying to argue that that psychopathic behavior is a brain issue over which psychopaths have no control. It’s not their fault for being evil. It’s a diseased brain. And they’re suffering from it! Therefore, psychopaths are entitled to be helped by psychiatry. This would be a very major change in the jurisprudence system. See here for one such “neurolaw” project.

      Compounding this problem for shrinks is that only a tiny handful of psychopaths do illegal things. Arguing that they’re all dangerous and trying to conflate the term psychopath with serial killer is like arguing that undrugged mental health patients are dangerous, which we all know not to be the case. Most psychopaths are very successful at mimicking their environment and staying below the radar. They’re very good at providing the correct, “mentally healthy” answers to a battery of questions.

      There has been an attempt in the UK at creating a new legal/diagnostic category called “Dangerous People with Severe Personality Disorder”. This is simply an attempt to detain people against their will with no legal or scientific grounds. People who have committed no crime (but they might!) and who don’t fit the standard definition of “insane.” Like all the crap psychiatry tries to pull, it doesn’t appear to have been a screaming success.

      Psychiatry still has very little in its tool bag to “help” psychopaths and largely can only observe and detain them indefinitely, particularly if the psychopath has no motivation to change. And I think this is one of the reasons psychopaths have been largely ignored in the past by psychiatry and why they’re so vilified in society at large, a stigmatization that psychiatry has only been too happy to perpetuate. It points out psychiatry has little ability to do anything at all with any one, if their victim, I mean patient, doesn’t want them to and doesn’t **believe** in their benevolent authority.

      • “We”, in this case, is a very limited population. Activists in New York have been yearly on the state capitol steps in Albany protesting ECT treatments given to children in that state. Where people are excusing the electroshocking of children, they are even more likely to excuse the drugging of children. Neither drugging nor electroshock is excuseable when used on children. Sure, they shouldn’t be used on adults, but when shock treatments or neuroleptic drugs are used on children, such use is unpardonable. There should be outrage.

        Psychiatry and drug companies have been escalating an epidemic of serious mental illness labels through children. Children labeled sick grow into adults labeled sick. The use of these drugs abreviates the lives of adults, but it will shorten them even more if the prescription drug usage was initiated in childhood.

        The article in question dealt with “conduct disorder” specifically. Well, there was no “conduct disorder” when I was a child. Conduct was a grade on a report card. Classroom disorder was caused by bad conduct, but bad conduct had not yet become a pathological condition. I would think that when the development of a psychopathic or a sociopathic personality type is involved, parental interactions have something to do with that development. I feel that if we restrict our observance to MRI scans, we are going to be missing a great deal of what has actually transpired.

        It doesn’t appear to be a screaming success is an understatement when applied to most of the answers to human distress developed by conventional psychiatry. I suggest that if treatment were to become more evidense based rather than wishful thinking based those answers would be more likely to come to hand. The evidense is there, it’s only a matter of acknowledging it and of using it effectively.

        Society, in general, doesn’t acknowledge psychopaths until after a crime has been commited. We have a way of demonizing people who are different from the way the vast majority of us are. This demonization is not a matter that is conducive to communication, in fact, it may be said to be an impediment to communication and understanding. When people lose sight of the function and utility of the spoken word, all sorts of demons have the potential to crawl into that space between one person and another.


        There is a book on the c/s/x (consumer/survivor/ex-patient) movement entitled Talking Back To Psychiatry. This, I think, is part of my mission and role, to provide a forum for people to have a voice, and express an opinion, that wasn’t scripted almost word for word by a member of the World Psychiatric Association or the American Psychiatric Association. People don’t need a script that came straight out of the DSM if they can think in a fashion that is remotely original. People in the system, and outside of the system, can and will express an opinion that doesn’t necessarily jive with the biggest wigs in the WPA or the APA. They don’t have to think like laboratory dogs and maze rats either. This not only applies to people who have undergone psychiatric labeling for life crises, miscommunications, or what have you, it also applies to people who have been demonized for being different by mental health authorities in concert with the criminal justice system. What so often gets neglected is the underlying humanity of the people so demonized and ostracized. The difference that exists between one human being and another is never so great as that difference that exists between one human being and a monkey.

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